The Bootstrapped Founder

Emmet Gibney truly walked the path less taken. Today, you'll hear about an extraordinary journey from customer support to interim CEO of Rewardful. You'll gain insights into how Emmett skillfully braved the transition following the company's acquisition by a private equity group. This episode will acquaint you with the power of referral and affiliate programs, and how they can provide the much-needed edge to entrepreneurs in their quest for growth.

This conversation with Emmett is a goldmine of subject-matter expert insights. We discuss the lucky turn of events that propelled him to the position of interim CEO at Rewardful, and his role in the growth trajectory of the SaaS Group. You'll learn about the intricate management processes this Private Equity company has woven for its portfolio companies. Understand the distinction between customer referral programs and affiliate marketing programs, and the art of setting them up. Emmett's experiences serve as a testament to the potential personal growth and career trajectory that can be achieved by working your way up — or being referred, as we find out.

We also delve deep into the art of building successful referral and affiliate systems. Listen to the success stories of two indie hackers and explore the strategies to build trust with affiliates and identify the right people for your affiliate system. Embrace the wisdom of the long-standing community members and learn how to attract the right newcomers to your work. This episode is not just about strategies but also about the nuances of human relationships in business – a true masterclass for entrepreneurs and those in the SaaS industry.

00:00:00 Journey to Interim CEO at Rewardful
00:11:47 Transitioning to Private Equity
00:22:16 Referral and Affiliate Programs for SaaS Businesses
00:35:41 Building Affiliate Systems for SaaS Businesses
00:39:11 Finding and Building Affiliate Partnerships
00:44:43 Community-Centric Approach in Business

Emmet on Twitter:

The blog post:
The podcast episode:
The video:

You'll find my weekly article on my blog:

My book Zero to Sold:
My book The Embedded Entrepreneur:
My course Find Your Following:

This episode is sponsored by

  • (00:00) - Journey to Interim CEO at Rewardful
  • (11:47) - Transitioning to Private Equity
  • (22:16) - Referral and Affiliate Programs for SaaS Businesses
  • (35:41) - Building Affiliate Systems for SaaS Businesses
  • (39:11) - Finding and Building Affiliate Partnerships
  • (44:43) - Community-Centric Approach in Business

Creators & Guests

Arvid Kahl
Empowering founders with kindness. Building in Public. Sold my SaaS FeedbackPanda for life-changing $ in 2019, now sharing my journey & what I learned.
Emmet Gibney 🇨🇦☘️
Building @getrewardful into the best affiliate tracking platform for SAAS businesses.Tweeting about SAAS and stuff.

What is The Bootstrapped Founder?

Arvid Kahl talks about starting and bootstrapping businesses, how to build an audience, and how to build in public.

Arvid Kahl: Welcome to The
Bootstrapped Founder. We've all

heard of climbing the corporate
ladder. But my guest today,

Emmet Gibney, takes this concept
to a whole new level. He shares

his remarkable journey from
customer support to the role of

interim CEO at Rewardful. We
discuss about this transition

and the expansion of the company
on the new private equity

ownership, how Emmet stepped
into the void that was left by

the original founders and just
how incredibly impactful

referral and affiliate programs
can be for us indie hackers.

From setting up the perfect
referral program to identifying

the ideal affiliate profile for
your business, we just unpack it

all the tools and tactics you
need. It's all in there. And

then we dive into the role of
building and contributing to

communities for maximum impact
as well. A big shout out at this

point to, the
sponsor of this episode. More on

that later. Now, here's Emmet.

Emmet, thanks so much for being
on the show. Tell us a little

bit about your journey with
Rewardful. What's your job

there? How did you get it? And
what does a day in the life look


Emmet Gibney: Sure. So my
journey with Rewardful actually

goes back to before I actually
started tactically working for

Rewardful. So I've been working
for Rewardful since, say, March

of 2022, I think so maybe a
little bit more than a year and

a half. And but before that, so
back in, I hate to pull up the P

word. But back around the
pandemic times, I had been

working for a travel company
here in Dublin. And I've been

working there for a few years
and then the pandemic hits and

like the absolute worst industry
to be in when the pandemic hit.

And so the company went from,
like, 120 people to 10 in a, you

know, in a couple of weeks kind
of thing, right? And I was one

of the people who got laid off.
And so, you know, trying to

figure out, like, oh, like, what
am I going to do? And hiring

just like, you know, ground to a
halt. And I kind of, in a way, I

was thinking you know, I'm just
gonna take it easy, do a little

bit of like, coding and you
know, brush up my Ruby on Rails

skills. And it was actually,
like, I know this wasn't the

case for a lot of people. And
maybe people don't want to hear

this, but that first sort of
part of the pandemic was

actually a very nice time for
me. Because, you know, it was

kind of stress free, you know,
no work and we were having a kid

coming, you know, a few months
later. And so sort of a last

hurrah of freedom before
parenthood began. Anyways, I had

known the guys who founded
Rewardful for a number of years,

maybe close to 10 years at that
point in time. And reached out

to Colin Brady, who were the
co-founders with Brady Cassidy.

They're the founders of
Rewardful. And just said, like,

hey, like, do you need to help
with anything? You know, I'm

unemployed and have some spare
time. And they're like, yeah,

like, we're just drowning on
support. Can you come and help

us with support? And so I just
typed into intercom and help

them out with support and you
know, helping people figure out

how to get the affiliate
tracking installed and did that

with them for a few months. And
then our kid arrived and I said,

okay, you know, I'm just going
to focus on helping out at home

for the next little bit when now
that the kid arrived and then I

got a job shortly thereafter
because, you know, you need to

have an income if you've got a
kid. And so I worked a real sort

of classic corporate job for
another kind of year in a bit

and did not enjoy my time there.
But it was like, you know, for

personal reasons, we need to
like get a mortgage and needed

to have, you know, kind of a
stable job. And once that was

settled, then I reached back out
to Colin Brady and said, hey,

like, you know, I'd love to work
with you guys on a permanent

basis. And my background
professionally was in sort of

product management and bit of
like content marketing and

things like that. Anyways,
reached out to the guys. And

they said, yeah, sure, like, you
know, we've got, you know, we've

got a spot for you and went and
joined them in March of 2022.

And for the first call it eight
or nine months that I was there

was primarily working in kind of
a marketing capacity and some

background context. Rewardful
had been acquired by private

equity company or group called
saas. group, which is currently

the owner of Rewardful. You can
go to if you want to

learn more about saas. group and
if you're interested in selling

your SaaS company, you can go
check them out. And so they had

acquired the company a few
months before I had joined the

company full time. And so, come
November 2022, Colin Brady had

finished their, I think or no
period is sort of the technical

term. And they decided that they
wanted to move on. They've been

working on Rewardful for, you
know, five years, mostly, like,

on the side of their full time
jobs. And so they were pretty

tired and decided they wanted
to, you know, take a bit of a

breather. I think Kyle had a
just had a kid and decided,

like, you know, he wanted to
take a bit of a step back. And

so November, at that point in
time, there was, I think, five

or six of us calibrated then
left. And so our team went from

six to four and the company was
growing quite rapidly. And so

within the group, not just
within Rewardful but within the

group, trying to figure out
like, okay, you know, what do we

do now? We've lost the CTO and
effectively CEO of the company.

And one of our, I guess, lead
developers, I don't know what

his title was actually at the
time, but Chris Kottom. He

stepped up to be the CTO and
then we started effectively,

like, external CEO search. And
then I moved up to being head of

product, which is sort of a
portion of Brady's role. And but

in the intervening months, I
basically started taking over a

lot of sort of the CEO type
functions, you know, like

handling all this stuff in terms
of finance and reporting up to

the board. And, like, all the
sort of, you know, firefighting

that you do in that type of
role. And once a quarter, we

basically have a presentation
that we give to the guys that

run saas. group in terms of how
we're performing and what we're

doing and initiatives and things
like that. And I basically said

to them, like, listen, I've been
basically, you know, running the

business for the last few
months. I know we've got this

external CEO search. Would you
mind if we pause that? Let me

continue to operate in this role
for the next several months. The

place hasn't burned down yet. If
it doesn't burn down, you know,

within the year kind of thing,
can I do this, you know, on a

permanent basis? And they said,
yeah, we'll let you do that. And

that's where we are now in sort
of an interim CEO of the

business. My title is
technically head of product. But

in terms of, you know, your
question around on a day to day

basis, you know, what does my
day look like? You know probably

5% or 10% of my job is actually
product related. There's so many

other aspects of the business.
So like, you know, today I was

reviewing a new template for our
data processing agreement. Every

now and then we get requests
from people who are in Europe

who want a data processing
agreement. That's sort of a

requirement under GDPR when
you're working with what we

would be technically classed for
a lot of our customers is a sub

processor. So diving into
marketing, we're starting to do

a lot more content marketing. I
used to run a video production

company and sort of a past life.
So content and particularly like

video content is something that
I'm pretty comfortable. And

we're looking to hire new
people. So you know, putting

together job specs,
occasionally, you know, jumping

into product team meetings with
the developers and our CTO, you

know, figuring out, like, which
features should we be doing

next? What should we be
building? How should we be

building it? A lot of customer
calls, demos and sales calls.

You know, I think it was last
Monday or something like that, I

had eight customer demos in one
day. So that was a very busy

day. So there's a lot of that
almost every day there's at

least one sort of customer demo
that'll be doing. And, you know,

a lot of sort of firefighting
little things that come up, you

know, you need to address and so
it's a very varied role. And

it's kind of the way I like it.
I am more of a generalist

generalist. I like breadth as
opposed to depth. And then, you

know, the guys that run saas.
group, they run like 14 or 15

other companies. And as result,
they've kind of leave us at it

as long as things are going
well. They give us enough rope

to hang ourselves with. And so
far we haven't. So yeah, that's

a little bit of sort of my
journey and what I'm doing it at

Rewardful. And yeah, what my
sort of day to day looks like.

Arvid Kahl: Wow, thank you for
sharing all of this. That's a

wonderful and very rare example
of just growing into the role of

CEO in the business. It's just
feels like usually like if you

have an external one, they come
in and they take over. And it's

kind of a top down approach. But
your whole journey with the

business and the founders is a
very organic one starting out in

support, getting into product,
into marketing and then moving

into just doing the job that
needs to be done because there's

a void that needs to be filled.
That has a very indie hacker

like touch to it, you know,
like, it's just you do the

things that need to be done
because that's the way forward.

That's really cool to hear. And
the fact that it's a very varied

job well, yeah, that's just the
role of a CEO in a small SaaS

business like this, right? You
have to do everything. I really

appreciate that you mentioned
saas. group here because you

said they're running like 15-18
other companies. They almost

bought mine. Like we were
actually in conversations with

them selling Feedback Panda. We
went for it with a different PE

group at that point. But we
actually had negotiations about

that, too, when we sold back in
2019, right? That was the time

that we talked about selling our
Productivity Online Teacher

business. So I have a
relationship with saas. group.

And it's interesting to see how
far they have come since then as

well. Like the last couple of
years, they've been busy if

that's the current portfolio
that they're operating

Emmet Gibney: Yeah, they
probably would have been about

three or four or something like
that, at that point in time.

Arvid Kahl: It wasn't that much.
We would have been one of the

first. It didn't align because
we were in a market that, you

know, wasn't that interesting,
apparently or the way that we

ran the company was different.
But no matter why it didn't work

out, it's cool to see that it
worked out for Rewardful. And in

a way that also worked out for
you, right?

Emmet Gibney: And I got very
lucky, like you're saying in

terms of this natural
progression. Like, yes, it was

this kind of this natural
progression in a lot of ways.

But I was lucky in a lot of
respects in that the opportunity

presented itself. And I was
lucky that they were open to the

idea. You know, they could have
very easily said, well, no.

We're going to continue our
search to find someone external.

You know, they've just spent,
you know, X millions of dollars

to buy the company. And we're
going to protect that investment

by, you know, getting a steady
hand who's done this kind of

stuff before. Who are you?
Right? And I mean, technically

still, they could do that,
right? Like they might decide

that, you know, they want to
find someone with more

experience and so forth. But
I've been very lucky, maybe some

additional context too is prior
to Rewardful, Kyle Fox and I

were actually co founders on
another startup, which was

healthcare software startup. And
I don't know if you've had any

experience or know anyone who's
had experience in the healthcare

industry, whether in software or
otherwise. But it is a brutal

industry for startups. And
anyone who's ever, you know,

subsequently come to me and
asked about, like, advice in

terms of healthcare software and
startups and stuff I've said,

basically just run, like, just
don't because it's just such

like a enterprise sales cycle.
But the point of bringing this

up is just that Kyle and I had
had worked together previously,

so you know, wasn't coming in
just like totally cold and

having no kind of working
relationship, that kind of

thing. But I've been super
lucky. And the guys at saas.

group have been super like,
supportive and not micromanaging

everything we're trying to do
and which I totally could have.

And I've heard of cases of, you
know, PE groups that that's how

they kind of operate. And so
we've been really lucky that

they've been awesome.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, I was
wondering because usually when

you sell a software business,
when you're just like a couple

of founders and you built it
too, a meaningful but you know,

not like enterprise level, just
amount of MRR or ARR. And then

you sell it, there's a kind of
shift in the incentives and the

goals that you may have had
compared to the goals of a

private equity group. Did you
find that you had to make like

significant changes that the
original founders probably would

not have made in that business?

Emmet Gibney: No, I don't think
so. Not yet. Like I think part

of the part of the reason why
they left was and maybe I should

not say anything just because
like, I don't actually 100% know

what's in their brains but like,
I think there's a little bit of

a different kind of not so much
skill set but like preference in

terms of different stage to be
working at. And the types of

things you have to do are very
different, like that very early

stage when you're building like
from zero, you know, what's that

period sale book, zero to one,
like, that's the hardest kind of

phase. And I think there's a
certain kind of skill set and

like comfortability with chaos
and this kind of thing. And I

think like, you know, Colin
Brady are really good in that

stage and I can see, like,
they've already gone and started

new projects. They've got a new
project they're working on

called Review Rocket, which is
basically like helping SaaS

companies get reviews on, you
know, all the different set of

software review platforms. And
so, you know, in terms of that,

like next stage that, you know,
we certainly haven't done

anything where it was like, oh,
we wouldn't have done that or

like the team has grown a bit
like, you know, we've added

three people, which is not a
huge amount of people. But when

you go from four to three,
you're, you know, you've almost

doubled the size of your team.
And, you know, you're doing a

lot more hiring. That's a big
one, like things really change

in terms of the dynamic when you
add more people. And then

there's other stuff that's it's
the comes in that it's not so

much about the stage that
Rewardful is and this stage of

Rewardful is going to put a lot
of it's actually about the stage

that saas. group is in and the
stage they're going into. You

know, we've gone from four
people to three people, which

is, you know, whatever. But
saas. group in September, we had

like, a all portfolio get
together in Lisbon and there was

100 ish people in that came,
maybe 120 we're in the total

group. And now I think we're at
like 220 or 30 or maybe 50, I

don't know, right? And so we're
meeting again in September, this

time in Barcelona. And, you
know, they're bringing 200

people from all around the
world. But the point I'm getting

to, though, is that the types of
processes that you need to have

in place, one to manage all
these different portfolio

companies, but then also as sort
of like a central body, right?

So like centralized HR
processes, centralized finance

processes, recruiting and hiring
kind of processes. And I think

they've done a pretty good job
of kind of having the best of

both worlds where I only speak
for our company. I don't know to

what extent it's like this for
other portfolio companies,

pardon me. We certainly feel
like we have the autonomy and

room to run and to, you know,
feel like a startup whilst

living within this broader
thing, right? And so we have the

benefit of sort of structures
and there's, you know, HR

processes and you know, finance
handles payroll and so there's

all that kind of stuff that
normally, you just don't expect

in a startup like, you know,
onboarding and helping

onboarding like, you know, what
are you talking about if you're

in like a five person product?
Yeah, I don't know exactly. And

so we have to the benefit of
some of that structure and then

also have the benefit of like,
they kind of let us operate and

do what we want to do. And we'd
let them know what we're up to.

And you know, so far, I haven't
felt over pressure to do

something that we weren't
thinking we were going to do

anyway. And the other benefit
too is like, these guys have a

fountain of knowledge and
experience in software and SaaS

businesses. And across the
portfolio, we've got access to

huge amounts of help, like, both
on an internal team basis. So

like there's a marketing team
and a product team. We need to

get like a designer to help with
product work or we need you

know, we got a lot of help from
the internal marketing team on

optimizing pay per click and
content and SEO. But then across

the different portfolio
companies, you know, just

reaching out to one or the
other, it could be a founder or

there's a CEO one of the other
companies or it might just be

like a head of some, you know,
team. Like I reached out to the

head of sales at Pipeline. It's
one of the other portfolio

companies. They're a CRM
company, just asking them about

sales and setting up you know,
we're thinking about we don't

have any outbound sales, but
just trying to understand how

are they doing that? Or you
know, support talking to someone

like, you know, how can you, you
know, manage support and all

these different things. So it's
just been a huge learning

experience working with them.
And it hasn't felt like, you

know, you need to suddenly
there's this kind of, you know,

the board coming in and
simulating into some sort of

like process. You know, that's
ultimately like enterprise-y

bureaucratic in nature. So we
haven't felt that at all, which

is awesome.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, I do like a
good Star Trek reference. So

thanks for that. But honestly,
this is something that I've

noticed too, as we transitioned
our company to the private

equity company that we sold to,
just to see the

interconnectedness of all the
other portfolio companies in

there and how easy it was for
the developer that we hired to

go and work on other projects,
if there was downtime, if they

didn't have anything to do on
ours. That was really

interesting. And it's something
that I was kind of afraid of

that, as a founder of a
business. I didn't want other

people to interact with me. I
wanted to build my own thing,

right? Which is why we never
hired. It was so bizarre. We was

just Danielle, my co founder and
girlfriend and I, together

running this business, never
really hiring anybody having

1000s of customers trying
desperately to keep them under

control, then we sold the
business and we transitioned it

over. And all of a sudden, there
was this interconnected group of

also hundreds of people just
doing the work together much

better than we would do it
alone. It was a humbling

experience for me as an indie
hacker to see that this was an

option. And as you said, the
cofounders of Rewardful, they

probably might also feel like
this and they're probably right

to feel like in their state of
how they want to build a

business, just in my perspective
and opened my eyes to that there

is a way past the isolated indie
hacker experience into a much

more collaborative, bigger
system. But that still allows

you to act individually. That's
really cool to see how well that

worked for you. I guess it
depends on the private equity

company you work with, right?
Not every company will give you

that much leeway.

Emmet Gibney: Yeah, no, and I
think as you're saying that and

kind of your experience there,
that was a thought that entered

my head is like, I have, you
know, one data point. And it's

been a good experience. I was an
employee, right? So my concern

was more about like, oh, geez,
like, what's my work life gonna

be like? But I can imagine,
like, as a founder, you know,

being really worried about, you
know, someone's going to mess

with my baby kind of thing,
right? And yeah, so I think

like, you'd want to be careful
and do your due diligence if

you're, you know, an indie
hacker looking to sell your SaaS

product or whatever, to make
sure that they're not going to

just, you know, ruin what you've
created or just like make that

process, you know, stressful.
And, yeah, like, I think it's

definitely something that people
should consider. As I've been in

the machine now myself, I've
been thinking like, oh, if I was

ever to do this, I'd want to
stick around kind of as long as

I'm learning stuff because I've
just learned a huge amount, you

know, just kind of seeing the
way these other companies are

run. And I have access to a lot
of sort of metric type

information and a lot of these
different companies and seeing

the things they're doing and
benchmarking and seeing like,

okay, like, you know, this is
how much revenue they're making

per employee. And, okay, this is
how much they're spending on

their PPC. And, okay, like, the
CRM industry is very different

from like, our industry. The
customers are different, their

go to market and kind of
benchmarking these different

things. And it's just been, you
know, I think education, you

know, I'm sure getting, you
know, bought out is probably the

primary driver. But like, just
learning and personal growth as

an entrepreneur, I think, is a
huge reason to join one of these

types of groups. And, yeah,
definitely, I think it's a

worthwhile option to look out
for people.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, I mean,
getting bought out, that's the

dream, like getting the
financial stability, security

and beyond. Obviously, that's
why most people or many people

at least built the thing, why
they get into something as crazy

and risky as entrepreneurship.
But I think the learning along

the way, in retrospect, I find
that that was more important in

a certain way, obviously,
financial security is a

wonderful thing. And we got that
too when selling Feedback Panda.

But the learning along the way
and keeping learning beyond,

that is more important for just
to have a continued life of

achievement or just to feel
fulfilled, have passion of

purpose, that still needs to
happen. Because if you just stop

working on the product, somebody
buys it from you. Now you have

millions. What are you going to
do? You're not going to sit on

the beach, right? That is the
illusion of entrepreneurship is

that you're going to retract
completely from life and just

sip daiquiris every day. That's
not going to happen. You still

need to, you have this passion,
you can actually mobilize this

passion, you want to keep
mobilizing that passion. So it's

really cool to see that you're
getting this without the

existential risk of having
somebody destroy your baby,

that's really cool. For you,
this is a great situation. And

one thing that you said earlier
that I find almost hilariously

fitting is that you're kind of
you got referred into your spots

for a company that does referral
or helps other people with

referral systems for you to be
constantly referred into a job.

It's really, really fitting. I
would like to talk about

referrals a little bit because
from what I understand your

target market is indie hackers,
people like us, people like me,

people who are building
businesses and I guess many

people don't really understand
the value of a referral system

or an affiliate system. And I
would like to, I guess, give you

the opportunity to convince me
that my next SaaS business

should definitely have either
affiliates or a referral system

or both. So try that.

Emmet Gibney: Yeah, sure. So
first off, I'll make the

distinction between a customer
referral program and an

affiliate marketing program. And
this is good timing because I

just before I was on this call
with you, I was actually just

recording a course for this. And
this was like the, you know, the

slides I was going through, so
it's timely. So customer

referral program, the key
distinction between the two is

basically a customer referral
program, you're not gonna be

paying people a commission.
Typically, it means like, you're

paying them like a credit or
something like that, right? So

imagine Feedback Panda, if you
had a customer referral program

and you know, customer A refers
customer B to join. You'll give

them like, maybe a free month or
something like that. And you

would credit them, you know, so
that, like, there's no exchange

of cash. There's no commission.
Customers, you know, they

obviously, it varies depending
on the industry, but they

oftentimes can't be bothered
with like signing up to your

affiliate program and you know,
getting paid out and Pay Pal and

all this kind of stuff, right?
So that's customer referral

program. Affiliate Program is
I'm an affiliate and I want to

make money and I'm, you know,
maybe I've got like a blog or

I'm an influencer or something
like that. I'm trying to

monetize my audience. I'll go
looking for affiliate programs

to join, where basically, I can
refer customers to these

businesses and they're going to
pay me in commissions cold, hard

cash, right? Rewardful enables
both situations. Customer

referral programs is a little
bit more complex in terms of the

installation and sort of
building of it. Because there's

more interaction in terms of,
you know, doing a credit within

Stripes, API and this kind of
stuff, right? Affiliate Programs

is much easier to set up within
Rewardful and whoever you're

going with. And so in terms of
why you want to use either of

these, word of mouth marketing
is a very effective way, maybe

the most effective way of
getting customers. Anecdotally,

even beside our affiliate
program, a huge amount of

customers that Rewardful gets,
as people just talking about us

on Twitter. Someone asks like, I
want to set up a, you know,

affiliate program. Who should I
use? And someone chimes in and

says, you know, checkout
Rewardful. And so just word of

mouth is very powerful. And so
if you can incentivize people to

refer customers to you, that's a
great model, right? You're

rewarding your existing
customers for bringing in new

customers. The new customers
know that if this person is an

existing customer, well, they're
not going to refer me to

something that they don't want
to use and so that social proof

you know that speaks volumes,
right? And then in terms of

affiliate programs, they work a
little bit differently. The

principles are the same in terms
of word of mouth is valuable.

But you know, probably people
might be a little bit more

guarded when an affiliate says
you know, check out this

product. Everyone knows you
know, influencers now like you

know, hashtag ad or whatever
they've, you know, if they're

doing an Instagram post or tweet
or whatever. But it might not be

as impactful in terms of, you
know, people might be a little

more skeptical if an influencer
is recommending something. But

you understand this. You know,
the Twitter audience guy and

building relationship that an
influencer or anyone with an

audience, they have social
capital with that audience. And

they can drive commercial
behavior, right? You know,

recommend some sort of product
if it's a fit in terms of

whatever their you know,
expertise is, right? Like, if

you were to become an affiliate
for Typefully, that's a customer

of ours. They've got an
affiliate program. And you were

to recommend this is a Twitter
tool, it's a perfect fit in

terms of your audience. That
would probably perform quite

well. And you'd probably make
some decent money off of it and

Typefully gets customers that
are, you know, that are within

their ideal customer profile and
so forth, right? So it's a good

fit in that perspective. In
terms of some numbers, that

might be interesting. It varies
greatly, obviously, from

business to business, industry
to industry. But typically what

we'll see is for a business that
is up and running and generating

revenues already, typically,
you'll see anywhere from 5 to

15% added to your MRR. In some
cases can be higher. And then

obviously, in some cases, it
doesn't work for some businesses

or they don't make it work
because you don't put in the

effort to run the program. And
so if you're already up and

running, it's just a great
channel to add to your marketing

mix. And it's just like leaving
money on the table by not, you

know, operating an affiliate
program. Obviously, there's a

bit of work to do. We can talk
about that in a bit in terms of

best practice and how to make it
worth your while. But it really

is just like a great channel to
add. There's also another factor

to take into consideration is
launching a SaaS or any kind of

launching any kind of business,
right? You've operated in the

course world and info product
world. And that's an industry

where we have a lot of customers
in that space as well. That's a

space where a launch really
works quite well, right? Like

building a hype to something and
then releasing it at launch. And

then, you know, either you
remove whatever the sort of

promotion is or you remove it
from the market, that's a common

thing. And so if you can launch
with a group of affiliates

behind you, you can expand your
reach and get much more people

into that sales process. And
we've seen some ridiculous

stories of people launching SaaS
products. The case study that's

actually on our website. And
it's something we've got, if

people might see our ads on
LinkedIn and YouTube for this

particular case study. A
customer of ours called Commonly

and they launched, I can't
remember exactly when it was

2020 or 2019. But they launched
and within their first week,

they hit $54,000 in MRR and that
was with one or two affiliates

that were kind of perfectly
placed within their market.

Caveat like you know, disclaimer
etc like, results will vary and

don't expect you know, not
everyone should expect that. It

really comes down to the quality
of the affiliates. We had

another case. I can't say who
they are because we haven't like

they haven't agreed to give us a
case study and that kind of

thing. But we had one customer
back in March. And they launched

their business in I think it was
like the first or second week of

March and by the end of the
month, they had hit $800,000 in

sales, from zero to 800,000 in
like two or three weeks and then

it like it drastically kind of
tapered off from that. You know

it's a real kind of classic
launch where it's like peak and

then it kind of trickles off to
you know some kind of more

normal level. But like this,
we've seen some insane stories

and sort of in terms of people
launching both SaaS and info

product type businesses using
their affiliate programs and so

yeah that's kind of the pitch to
like why you should set up an

affiliate program. It's not easy
to have those type of results or

even just to run an affiliate
program but it's not

complicated. Like there's some
pretty simple principles to

adhere to and but yeah like any
SaaS business that is in a

product led you know self serve
SaaS type of model should be

considering adding it to their
marketing mix for sure. Yeah

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, you convinced
me. You not only need to

convince me now you also
convinced me retroactively

because we did have such a model
for Feedback Panda. And it was

an internal like a customer
referral system. I built this

myself because I didn't know any
tools existed and it was

horrible to build. So I'm glad
that you actually offer

something that I could just plug
into Stripe. I would prefer


Emmet Gibney: To everyone out
there, don't do it yourself.

There's a lot of stuff that's
going on in the background and

background processing and all
this kind of stuff. You don't

want to, yeah, it is a whole
other product, like. Yeah.

Arvid Kahl: It's like building
Stripe yourself and doing credit

card charges all by yourself.
It's just really not worth it.

And then that's the thing, my
indie hacker journey was full of

lessons on what I should not
have built in retrospect. This

one was one of them. We did, I
think like a two sided or maybe

even a three sided win win win
situation. We gave people a free

month if they gave somebody or
if they got somebody else onto

the platform. So that's going
to, you know, I think three

people, you get a free month
because we wanted to have a

multiplier in there. And then
each of these people that came

on also got their first month
for free as a double sided

incentive. And we can talk about
the specifics in a second. I

just want to get back to what
you were saying about SaaS

businesses, launching with an
affiliate system, which is the

other side of what you offer.
I've seen this done extremely

successfully in several products
over the last couple of weeks

and months. In fact, over the
last couple of weeks, I talked

to two indie hackers on this
podcast. One of them was Tony

Dinh, who had launched Black
Magic, which is also a Twitter

tool with an affiliate system.
And it was quite successful. And

I think just last week, you
know, on this show, I talked to

Louis Pereira, who launched
Audio Pen, which is a ChatGPT

based audio to summary
conversion tool. That's a very

basic way of describing it. It's
really cool, got to product of

the day, second product of the
week and fourth product of the

month on Product Hunt, got a lot
of initial success, also

launched with an affiliate
system and made significant cash

just from that by having people
be affiliates that are really

aligned with his audience. And
that's something I wanted to

talk to you about because I have
a horror story here. Maybe

that's a bit strong of a term.
But earlier today, I got an

email by a company that I have
never heard of before. And they

just told me how they would love
for me to be an affiliate for

their product, just click here
and you become part of my

affiliate system. That was kind
of their pitch in that email.

And I was looking at that email.
And I was thinking, like, I

would have probably been
interested in this company if

they hadn't just tried to push
me into the role of an

affiliate. So I think there are
ways to do it really well. I'm

looking at Louis and I'm looking
at Tony and how they started

their journey with the affiliate
system and ways to do it not

well at all, which seems to be a
cold email sent to a massive

amount of people asking them to
join the affiliate system. So

how do you find the right
people? As a SaaS entrepreneur

who wants to have affiliates to
send this to without breaking

trust? Like, that's what
happened to me today in that

email. I don't trust this
company. They just want to make

money off me and my reach.
That's how I felt. So I'm not

going to get it. Again, I'm not
going to go for that. On the

other side as a founder, how do
I get the right people? And how

do I build trust with people so
that they becomereliable and

trustworthy affiliates?

Emmet Gibney: Yeah. So the first
thing that springs to mind is

important, I guess, in terms of
managing expectations and around

affiliates and your affiliate
program. You know, everyone's

heard of the 80/20 rule. Right?
So 20% of your results will come

from 80% of your efforts or
inputs, right? This applies in

affiliate marketing, but it's
more extreme, it's more like

99/1, like what 1% of your
affiliates will drive 99% of

your results, right? So the good
news with this is it means you

don't need a lot of affiliates
to see actual results, if you

can find the right affiliates.
So it's following this kind of

classic power law, right? Like
where you've got a huge amount

of results from small number of
people and then it kind of this

long tail, the long tail is
valuable. Like there's value to

be had there. And I would say
though, like it's probably more

worth investing in, like these
more kind of power or higher

influence type of affiliates.
That's where the value really

is. And it really is just about
trying to build relationships

with these people, right? So the
advice I commonly give to people

is, first step is to identify
your ideal affiliate profile. So

in marketing and sales, you talk
about like your ideal customer

profile, right? Like who's the
ideal customer you want to go

after? For us indie hacker is
one of our two sort of main ICPs

ideal customer profiles. And so
for an ideal affiliate profile,

you got to figure out okay, for
my product, the market that I'm

in, who are the people that my
customers are engaging with,

right? And so that example I
gave earlier of Typefully and

that's probably like a pretty
pretty good fit in terms of

audience, right? And so like if
I was Typefully, what I would do

is first step is identify that
ideal profile. Second step is

start doing research to put
together a list of people that

fit in within this profile. What
I've done in the past is I've

gone to places like Upwork or
Fiverr. And get them to do the

research because it's kind of
it's time intensive. And if

you've got the budget for it,
you can find virtual assistants

that are quite affordable. And
you know, put together a

spreadsheet with all the
different sort of data points

you're trying to find from about
the people. So like, you know,

name, website, email address,
twitter handle, number of

followers, etc, etc, etc. And do
like 10 of them and then go to

Upwork and say, okay, I want you
to find me as many more of these

people as possible. Here's kind
of the profile I'm looking for.

Go research for two hours and
then come back to me and show me

what you've got, look at what
they've got, you know, give your

feedback to kind of refine their
search and then send them back

at it. And, you know, get them
to research as many as they can

find or as many as you can, you
know afford within your budget.

And now you've got your list of
people that you're going to

reach out to. Then the next step
is the outbound outreach

process. And this is where you
want to be really careful, like

you don't want, even if you are
doing cold email, there's a way

to do cold email that feels
better and less greasy than

other ways, right? And the way I
would and I'm no cold email

expert, but the way I would
categorize it is like, there's

certain elements of the outreach
you're going to do that are

somewhat formulaic and then
other elements of it that are

going to be personalized. And so
you got to kind of figure out,

like, what those are, right? And
actually do a little bit of

research on all of these
different people that you're

planning to reach out to. And
the bigger the audience is for

these people you're reaching
out, the more time you're going

to want to spend to try and win
them over. And so if I was

trying to sell some, if I was
Typefully and I was trying to

recruit you as an affiliate, I'd
be like, okay, like, this guy is

like, perfect in terms of
audience, match and relevance.

So like maybe we just take it
off to the cold email and we try

to build that relationship in a
different way, right? And

actually start going to try and
engage with them, you know,

follow them on Twitter and start
like, you know, your courses

talk about like how to build
these relationships with with

people, right? You know, try not
to be quite so, don't be quite

so transparent in your
transactionalness, right? Like,

actually try and build
relationships with partners. So

that's what you're doing. You're
trying to build partnerships.

And it's worth the time to do
that with people that can drive

those results, you know, that
99/1 rule I talked about. Like,

okay, those people that are in
that 1%, like, take the time to

build those relationships. Look
at it as more of like a

partnership as opposed to just
this very transactional

affiliate type relationship. One
of the things, one of the

questions that we get from a lot
of prospective customers is do

you guys have a network? And so
there's a lot of affiliate

networks out there where they do
both the affiliate tracking and

management as well as they've
got a network of affiliates. So

you think back in the day, like
Clickbank and commission

junction and these different
places where it's more of this

marketplace of products and
affiliates. So we have a lot of

prospective customers who come
to us and say like, oh, do you

have a network? Oh, how am I
going to find affiliates? And in

that there's this misconception,
there's this false assumption

that the value and value is in
like these transactional

relationships. Oh, people will
find me on the network and

they'll come and promote my
product. That is true, like

people will find you and maybe
they'll sign up for your

program. But they might not be
the people that you want to be

promoting your product. They
might be promoting your product

in a way that you don't like.
You don't know them. They're

totally faceless. And there's
all sorts of kind of gaming that

people can kind of do that you
don't want them to do. And so

the quality of affiliates you
get from these networks is not

like you're not going to find
Arvid one of these networks,

right? Like the way you're gonna
find Arvid as a partner is

through trying to actually build
a relationship with them, right?

Like, you know, any like market
that you're in, you're in a

community right? I come back to
this kind of analogy in my head

over and over and over again.
When it comes to business, it's

like in sports. And for people
who've played competitive sports

we'll get this, where, you know,
if you're in a sport you're

competing. And even though all
your opponents there that are in

this community, you're all part
of the same community. You go to

the same tournaments or the same
leagues or whatever. And you see

each other day in day out and
you become friends with these

people, even though they're your
competitors. And a market is

quite similar. All the people
that are operating in this

market, it's the same sort of
thing, it's a community. And the

people who are very
transactional aren't just coming

into a market because they want
to make money. The people who've

been in that community forever
and are kind of the mainstays

and the sort of stayed members
of the community, they'll sniff

these people out in just like,
in a heartbeat. And they'll just

be like, okay, like, I'm gonna
stay away from those people

because like, like, they're not
good actors within the space.

And so this email you got, it
gave you that feeling of like,

oh, here's an interloper. This
person is a blow and they're not

part of my community. Otherwise,
like, they wouldn't have engaged

with me in this way. And you can
kind of sniff that out. And so

if you're just going to be
really transactional and just

like sent a spam to a bunch of
people and not put any research

into who they are and your
outreach, they're going to smell

that out, right? And so at least
make the effort to try and make

them feel like, you know, you're
worth my time. That's the way

that I would go and try and the
way I would think about it. You

know position it in your mind
that I'm trying to build

relationships with people. For
those really kind of, you know,

more high influence type of
partners. And then there's other

kind of more passive ways that
you can get just sort of the,

you know, the generic people
coming in trying your program.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, thanks. That
makes a lot of sense. I think

the focus on being more
relational than transactional,

even though it is about
transactions in the end, like an

affiliate is a sale of a thing,
right? That is in itself a

transaction. But how it comes to
be, that is relational. And I

think making that
differentiation is at the core

of building these kind of long
term sales relationships in the

end. It's funny, like, you want
transactions and you have to be

the least possible transactional
to get there. It's just an

interesting observation. And the
community centric approach is

also something that I've
personally felt in the Twitter

course space, for example, like
you mentioned the course that I

have. I compete with a lot of
people who talk about building

audiences on Twitter, but we all
know each other. And there was a

moment when Daniel Vassallo, the
guy who has one of the biggest

Twitter courses out there. I was
talking to him a lot after

recording mine and I was saying,
hey, Daniel. I'm gonna compete

with you a little bit on this. I
hope you don't mind. And I said

that in a Twitter DM because we
are connected and we talk all

the time. And he said, hey, I
said what I want to say. Now you

say what you want to say. And
now we are both affiliates off

each other on Gumroad. Like he
recommends mine. I recommend

his. In my course materials, I
list like three or four

different Twitter courses by
other people because I know they

list mine. Because we all know
that in this space, the more we

can combine our knowledge, the
better it will be for the person

taking it in. It's a very
community centric approach and

just trying to transact in
there, that would not fly. So

perfect description of that

Emmet Gibney: Yeah, that's very
common in the info product space

to have kind of this and much
less sort of combative or

competitive type of environment.
Obviously, you know, if you're

looking for like a social media
management tool, you only need

one. So there's not that same
kind of opportunity. But I was

talking to our mutual friend,
Andrew McIntosh last week. And

the analogy I get to him around
this idea was like a nightclub

district. And there's some
markets where it's like a

nightclub district where you
don't want to go to the bar that

has no other bars around it. You
want to go to the nightclub

district and you go to a bar
there and it's been an hour and

then you go to the next bar and
you know, people bar hop. Info

products are very much like
that, right? Where, like, you

know, you said one thing and
then Danny said another thing

and Justin Jackson says another
thing or whatever, right? And

just because you take one course
doesn't mean it doesn't preclude

you from taking another course
because they have different

perspectives on things and
different things that you can

learn. So you see a lot of
people in the info product space

that promote each other's you
know, at face value looks like

directly competing products, but
they'll promote each other.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, interesting
point, though. I think you just

pointed out effectively that
people who have a one time sale

have no problem having somebody
else have a one time sale. But

the moment you move into a
recurring revenue system where

you need customer retention, you
are less interested in giving

the alternative products or even
the information about the

alternative product to your
customers. As you have a lot of

indie hackers as a customer,
does that raise any special

challenges around that
particular kind of behavior as


Emmet Gibney: Nothing that comes
to mind. The only sort of, I

guess downside I've ever really
encountered if we want to call,

it's a double edged sword in
dealing with the indie hacker

community is incredibly vocal,
right? And so when they're like

you, they're, you know,
incredibly vocal and well, like

we get lots like I said, at the
top of the call, like we got a

lot of word of mouth. And that's
hugely beneficial for us. I

would say it's probably, it's a
difficult one to actually do

attribution to but I'm fairly
confident is probably, you know,

our largest if or at least one
of our largest sources of

customers. The other side of
that sword is when things go

wrong or people are frustrated
and they take to Twitter, then

you deal with the wrath of that
on the other side, where we had

a thing recently about affiliate
fraud. And basically what people

were doing was using affiliate
programs to bid on brand terms

on Google. And this is one of
those things. So this idea of

like, you know, getting, you
know, high quality affiliates

versus kind of transactional
affiliates. And this is

something a transactional
affiliate is going to do. They

don't care about you. They just
want to make money. And the way

to do that is to bid on their
brand terms, right? And so let's

say like Feedback Panda, you
would imagine if you Google

Feedback Panda, that's the first
result. In Google, you're gonna

have the number one result for
your brand term. And so why

would you bet on your own brand
term? You're already at the top

of Google. And so an affiliate
will come in and they'll join

your affiliate program and then
bid on your brand term and they

rank above your organic result.
And people will sign up through

that. And so they're then
getting a cut, they're getting

like 20-30% depending on what
your commission rate is, of all

those sales. And the math tends
to work because it's cheap to

bid on the brand terms because
nobody else is putting on those

brand terms. Anyways, there was
kind of a rash of this happening

across our customer base and
people took to Twitter to

complain about this and got a
lot of attention because there's

some sort of big named indie
hackers that were tweeting about

this. The upshot of that is, you
know, we get ideas for new

features for fraud, protection,
and things like that that we're

working on and sort of hacks
that people can do to protect

themselves against this kind of
stuff. That's the only thing

I've seen that, you know, it's
kind of that double edged sword

of dealing in the indie hacker

Arvid Kahl: Okay, well, that's
good to know. And this is a

problem, right? Like what is it
poaching or cannibalizing of SEO

rankings like that? I mean, that
can cost a lot of money if you

have to bite it. Like if you
want to fight that as an indie

hacker, you need to rank higher
than those people who would make

money on it. It's kind of it's
bizarre because you're losing

money on having to pay for
clicks, right?

Emmet Gibney: Yeah, we've
discovered and we give this as a

tip to people but there's some
easy ways to combat this. But

for people who weren't aware of
it. You know, it's definitely

something that they gotta be
aware of. And again, like,

that's why I want to try and
find those high value partners

because like, you wouldn't do
that, you know, to mean to

someone that you have, like an
actual relationship with, right?

So, yeah.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, trust is
really at the center of all

this, right? Like, the moment
you turn it into a mere

transaction and it's
quantifiable and somebody makes

maybe a bit less but more
reliable money by putting their

name or their link in front of
your actual name, you have a

problem. And if you can't trust
people not to do this, well,

then you have an extra problem.
Well, that is an interesting

insight into a field that I
personally, have never really

professionally used any tools.
And like I said, I built all of

this myself. I'm really happy
that you shared all of these

insights into particularly
affiliate marketing because I am

both a SaaS founder and a info
product owner and to see the

slight differences between what
a recurring revenue business

needs and what a info product
business needs, that is really,

really helpful. Thank you so
much for coming on the show here

today and sharing all of these
insights with me and my

viewers/listeners. Where do you
want people to go and find out

more about you and Rewardful?

Emmet Gibney: Yeah, sure. If you
want to learn more about me, you

can come and follow me on
Twitter. My handle is

@emmetgibney or if you live on
LinkedIn, if that's your world,

then you can find me on
LinkedIn. Just search me, Emmet

Gibney. And then for Rewardful,
visit us at if

you want to come and check out
our product and sign up. We have

a 14 day free trial. So if you
want to try us out as a SaaS

business and then yeah, we're on
Twitter and LinkedIn as well. I

think on Twitter, we're
@getRewardful. And then yeah,

come and consume our content.
And we'll do our best to educate

you on how to set up an
affiliate program.

Arvid Kahl: Yeah, that is a good
idea. I'm going to totally on

ironically put an affiliate link
to Rewardful into the show


Emmet Gibney: Yeah, yeah with
your audience. Yeah.

Arvid Kahl: It's really nice.
Thank you so much for being on

the show today. That was a
wonderful conversation. Thanks,


Emmet Gibney: Thanks for having

Arvid Kahl: And that's it for
today. And we talked about

taking over after the founders
left. Let's look at this from

the other side. If you're a
founder and you feel like you're

done with the business but you
want to turn it into money,

instead of just closing it down,
well, there's always the option

of an acquisition. That's what
happened to the people who ran

Rewardful, right? And that is, I
think, what can also happen for

you. That's where our sponsor, can help. Imagine

this situation. You're a founder
who's built a really solid SaaS

product, you acquire customers,
and the whole thing is

generating consistent monthly
revenue. The problem is that

you're not growing for whatever
reason, maybe lack of focus or

lack of skill or just plain lack
of interest and you feel stuck.

What should you do? Well, the
story that I would like to hear

is that you buckled down and
somehow reignited that fire

within. You got past yourself
and the cliches and you started

working on rather than just in
the business. You start building

this audience you always wanted
to build and you move out of

your comfort zone and start
sales and marketing, the scary

stuff. And six months down the
road, you've tripled your

revenue. Reality, unfortunately,
isn't that simple. Situations

may be different for every
founder who's facing this

crossroad. And too many times,
the story ends up being one of

inaction and stagnation until
the business becomes less

valuable, which is bad or worse,
worthless. And that is really

bad. So if you find yourself
here, where your story is likely

headed down a similar road, I
offer you a third option.

Consider selling your business
on Capitalizing on

the value of your time is a
pretty smart move and is free to list.
They've helped hundreds of

founders already. Go to and see

for yourself if this is the
right option for you at this

time. It doesn't hurt to check.

Thank you for listening to The
Bootstrapped Founder today. You

can find me on Twitter
@arvidkahl. And you'll find my

books and my Twitter course
there as well. If Twitter is

still around, then you know find
me on Twitter. If you want to

support me outside of that,
please subscribe to my YouTube

channel, get the podcast in your
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leave a rating and a review by
going to

It really makes a massive

difference to show this show to
more people. Any of the things

that I just mentioned will help
me, so thanks for listening.

Thanks for taking action. Have a
wonderful day. Bye bye